Traveling down a rough road with polio

131107_birdBy Patrick J. Bird, polio survivor and author of A Rough Road

During the polio epidemic of 1940, I contracted polio and became ensconced for 19 months in a “reconstruction home” far from my family. I was only 4 years old, and since all the other children were at least twice my age, I was initially placed in a room by myself instead of one of the dormitories.

Enduring loneliness, painful treatments, and lengthy, frustrating rehabilitation sessions, I learned to overcome my fears and to prevail Continue reading

A response to the polio outbreak in Syria

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By Bob Scott, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee

Polio was recently confirmed in Syria, a country that has been free of this disabling and potentially fatal disease since 1999. In response, health authorities in Syria and neighboring countries have launched urgent, large-scale, multi-country immunization campaigns to ensure that every child is reached with the polio vaccine.

Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are working together with local health authorities to activate the outbreak response. Continue reading

Remembering Jonas Salk on the anniversary of his birthday

Kurt Sipolski

Kurt Sipolski

By Kurt Sipolski, freelance writer, polio survivor, and resident of Palm Desert, California, USA 

Years ago, I founded and published a magazine for homeowners and designers, San Francisco Gentry magazine. 

It was easy to target advertisers. While homeowners don’t necessarily eat out more than renters, they sure as heck hire builders and landscapers more often.

One time, I called a fire contractor to sell him an ad. I had used him when an apartment in a building I owned caught fire. After refreshing his memory of who I was, he replied, “Oh, I  remember. You’re the cripple.”  Continue reading

Support grows for Miles to End Polio

John and Marga Hewko training for the El Tour de Tucson

RI General Secretary John Hewko and his wife, Marga.

By John Hewko, Rotary International General Secretary

For more than 20 years, Rotary members and their friends have worked tirelessly to keep our promise to the world’s children to eradicate polio. We’re almost there, but as in any race, the last mile is the hardest.

To honor those who strive to reach this historic goal of eradicating a disease for only the second time in history, I will again be joining Rotary members in the Tucson, Arizona, area on 23 November to raise money for Rotary’s Polio Plus Program by riding 111 miles in El Tour de Tucson. (Listen to Hewko’s interview with ESPN Radio in Tucson, ArizonaContinue reading

Why I became an ambassador for polio eradication

Archie Panjabi addresses the 2013 Rotary International Convention.

Archie Panjabi addresses the 2013 Rotary International Convention.

By Archie Panjabi, Emmy-winning actor and celebrity ambassador in Rotary’s “This Close” public awareness campaign

When I was 10 years old, I had an opportunity to stay in my parents’ homeland, India, for a period of two years. Coming from England, it was a huge cultural shock. But it was also a great experience for me to learn about my heritage.

One of the things that affected me deeply was my daily walk to school –  I would witness children crawling on the streets. Some of them were on planks of wood with wheels and just rolling themselves along. When the traffic would stop they’d knock on the car doors, begging for money.  Continue reading

We can’t afford to lose the fight against polio

Dennis Ogbe with two gold medals during the 2012 National Trials in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

Dennis Ogbe with two gold medals during the 2012 US National Trials in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dennis Ogbe, a Paralympic athlete from Louisville, Kentucky, USA, contracted polio as a child in Nigeria, while being treated for malaria. He eventually regained full use of his right leg, and began to compete in track and field.

As an athlete, I enjoy competition – but there is a battle happening off the field that is more important: the fight to end polio.

This fight is personal to me. I grew up in Nigeria, where I contracted polio at the age of 3. It was tough being the only kid on the playground in a wheelchair. For years I watched the other kids play, and when I tried to participate, they moved away from me. Continue reading

Traveling to Nigeria to fight polio

Ann Lee Hussey immunizing a child against polio in Chad.

Ann Lee Hussey immunizing a child against polio in Chad.

By Ann Lee Hussey, polio survivor and member of the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise, Maine, USA.

As a 17-month-old toddler, I contracted polio. Burning up with fever, I was paralyzed from the waist down. It was July 1955, only three months after Jonas Salk’s vaccine was released to the public. I was lucky to regain the use of most but not all of my leg muscles. Today, after multiple surgeries, braces, and physical therapy, I am able to walk with limitations. Continue reading

Polio did not put a brake on my life

131017_gufwan2By Ayuba Burki Gufwan, a polio survivor and founder/director of Beautiful Gate Handicapped People Center in Plateau State, Nigeria. Launched in 1999, Beautiful Gate has built and distributed more than 6,000 tricycle-type wheelchairs to polio survivors in Nigeria and neighboring states.

I was born in a tiny village in Plateau State, Nigeria. My mother had lost two babies before I was born, so when I came along everyone was very excited. I still remember faintly playing around with other kids. At the age of five, I came down with polio.

Continue reading

One drop away from a polio-free life

Ade Adepitan with other polio survivors in Nigeria.

Ade Adepitan with other polio survivors in Nigeria.

By Ade Adepitan, polio survivor, United Kingdom broadcaster, and former Paraylmpian.

I contracted polio at the age of 15 months while living in Lagos, Nigeria. I had been given two drops of the polio vaccine, but the virus caught me before I had the third and final drop which would have protected me for life. Continue reading

Why polio eradication means so much to me

Diane WIlkins in an iron lung

Grant Wilkins’ first wife, Diane, in an iron lung in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of Grant Wilkins.

By Grant Wilkins, past RI director and member of the Rotary Club of Denver, Colorado, USA.

In 1951, as a young father of three children ages 5, 2, and 3-months (the youngest born prematurely and still in the hospital), I contracted Bulbar Polio.

My throat and vocal cords were paralyzed, and I couldn’t talk or swallow. A tracheotomy and intravenous feedings kept me alive for two weeks until the paralysis started letting up.

My wife came to visit me for the first time after those two weeks, and mentioned she wasn’t feeling well. A spinal tap found she had the Lumbar Polio virus, and she was immediately admitted to the polio ward. Within 24 hours, she was completely paralyzed from the neck down and could not breathe on her own. Continue reading